Nebraska is often described as the epicenter for beef cattle production. The unique combination of forage and water supply, crop and ethanol production, and feeding and packing infrastructure make Nebraska a world-leader in beef production. However, there are critical opportunities to expand our cow/calf production capacity including: 1) efficient utilization of native rangeland as sources of feedstuff for beef cattle is less than its potential and 2) corn stover and cover crops are under-utilized.
Considering existing investments, opportunities for future investments, and the current momentum, The Agricultural Research Division and Nebraska Extension provided funds for a team-based integrated research and extension program for NE/US Beef Systems. Funding ($1.5 million) in collaboration with IANR units (Schools, Centers and Departments) was provided over 5 years. Funding was designed to encourage strong collaborations (e.g., co-direction of students), address the research, teaching and extension missions of IANR, and fulfill two essential elements:
- Strategic integration and optimization of components of the IANR statewide system to impact specific issues of regional and national importance to Beef Systems, and
- Plans for leveraging this investment towards current and emerging external funding sources (public and private-sector).
A concerted statewide research and extension effort has been established to improve the utilization of rangeland, pastures, crop residues, annual forages, ethanol co-products, and cover crops to optimize Nebraska beef production in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.
The goal of the Beef Systems Initiative, approved in November 2016, is to develop and support implementation of beef production systems that optimize feed resource use, natural resource conservation, and producer success in Nebraska through improved management of perennial grasslands and systems of integrated crop-beef cattle production
To identify management practices that achieve optimal harvest efficiency and utilization of perennial grasslands, the initiative will utilize a case study approach. This plan involves a comparison of grassland and beef production systems of ranches in Nebraska that utilize various management and grazing strategies. The cattle grazing distribution, grassland and beef production, range condition/health, alternative feed resources, and harvest efficiency of ranches in Nebraska will be quantified and key factors that impact harvest efficiency and productivity will be determined.
The initiative is housed in the Center for Grassland Studies and engages many faculty from University of Nebraska-Lincoln units; as well as other institutions of higher education, state, federal and private collaborators.